Zoroastrian Wedding Customs
Indian Zoroastrian (Parsi & Irani)
Page 4. Marriage Ceremony & Reception
How the Ara Antar & Marriage Ceremony Compliment One Another
If the ara antar symbolizes the union of the couple as a family unit, the marriage ceremony that follows unites the couple spiritually in a spiritually binding contract. The ara antar is the temporal aspect of the wedding, while the marriage ceremony is the spiritual aspect. Or, seen from another angle, the ara antar celebrates a cultural union, while the marriage ceremony results in a religious union. If the ara antar is filled with levity, the religious ceremony is solemn.
The Marriage Ceremony
Lighting the Spiritual Flame
The couple acknowledge their spiritual union by jointly lighting a devo (oil lamp) or candle signifying their desire to work together and jointly light the spiritual fire of their union. Some couples choose to light the devo and candle after the religious ceremony. In either case, the flame should continue to burn until the assembly depart. The manner in which the flame is extinguished is described below.
|The start of the marriage ceremony|
After the ara antar, the chairs are either repositioned or, the couple move to a different set of chairs placed beside one another (the groom sitting to the right of the bride). The photograph to the right illustrates a common setting used for Indian Zoroastrian marriage ceremonies. Here, the bride and groom are seated facing two priests - one from the groom's side and the other from the bride's side. The senior-most of the two priests takes the lead. The couple are flanked by two married male witnesses who are usually close married family members, one from each side of the two families. Behind the witnesses sit, or stand, other close married family members.
The orientation of the seating is also such that the couple face the sun during a daytime ceremony, or the rising sun i.e. east, if the ceremony if performed after sunset.
The Religious Ceremony / Payvand-e-Zanshooi
- Payvand means to unite, join, link and connect. For Zoroastrians, payvand is also a ritual connection symbolizing solidarity. For instance, the holding of hands, a custom commonly used when praying together, is called payvand.
- Zanshooi means matrimony (from zan and shohar meaning wife and husband respectively).
- Payman means vows.
• The marriage union is called payvand-e-zanshooi, meaning the union of matrimony.
• Payman-e-payvand-e-zanshooi means vows of the union of matrimony. These are the vows made at the outset of the ceremony. The language used is Persian.
• Payvand nameh is the matrimonial service. It includes advice, admonitions, prayers and prayers for blessings and good health. The priests read from the payvand nameh immediately following the payman or vows (see above). The advice is in Persian, while the prayers are in the Avestan language with some Persian added.
• Wedding festivities are called jashne aroosi in Persian.
• A Parsi wife is called kanya and the husband is called var. If Persian this would be zan and shohar respectively.
After the couple have lit the oil lamp, or devo, and seated themselves side-by-side, the priests start the ceremony 'in accord with the rites and customs' of the Zoroastrian religion. This phase can take up to an hour (and can lead to some restlessness amongst the audience as most people do not understand the language of the service). Nevertheless, the advice and admonitions are full of ancient wisdom and we will include a sample below.
There are three parts to the religious ceremony:
1. Opening words and the individual confirmation of intentions by both the groom and bride,
2. Advice and admonitions, and
3. Closing blessings or ashirwad, tandorosti and congratulations
|1. Priest questions the couple|
|2 & 3. Advice & Prayers|
Marriage ceremony performed at the Banaji Fire Temple In Mumbai
Once everyone has placed themselves, the ceremony starts with a short invocation. Following the invocation, the priest asks the bride, "...as witnessed by the good people of this assembly, I mobed ...... ask you ....... daughter of ...... if you accept in marriage ...... son of ...... both in body and soul, and in accordance with the tenets and traditions of the good Mazdayasni faith?' The bride does not answer and the priest repeats the question. After repeating the question for the third time, the bride answers "pasand kardam," or I agree. The repeated questions symbolize that the groom and his family should not take the bride's consent for granted.
On hearing the bride's consent, the priest asks the groom the same question once as there is no expected hesitation in the groom's answer.
In a variation of the custom, the priest also asks the witnesses and the gathering if they consent to the union. After hearing yes, he asks the couple if it is with free will and a clear mind, they are entering into the union for the rest of their lives.
If the priest hears agreement to proceed, the priests states; "With blessings and wishes for happiness, I, together with the good people of this gathering, ask God to grace this marriage with permanence and faithfulness, love and happiness, friendship and mutual respect, joy and many children. May God grant you your deserving wishes, and long and contended lives. Now I bid you listen to a few words of advice that you may use in your lives together."
The following is a sample of the advice. It is also an excellent sample of the guiding principles that give meaning to the Zoroastrian ethos:
• Remain faithful and loyal to one another.
• Be respectful and grateful to your parents and teachers.
• From amongst the knowledgeable and wise, choose a mentor who will give you counsel and guidance, for actions that are undertaken without knowledge and advice seldom end well.
• Help the disadvantaged to the best of your ability. To the needy, offer food and shelter.
• Remember with reverence the souls of those we cherish, especially on those days devoted to their remembrance.
• Increase your knowledge and help spread learning and culture.
• It is the duty of every parent to educate their children and afford the opportunity for further learning.
• Speak only the truth.
• Let your word be your bond.
• Do not lie, swear or deceive.
• Before speaking in any assembly, weigh your words carefully.
• Cherish your friends and be humble.
• Do not be vengeful or argue with a vengeful person.
• Do not be quarrelsome or quarrel with a quarrelsome person.
|The couple exchange wedding rings|
• Do not slander or fraternize with gossipers or backbiters.
• Do not be greedy or cooperate with a greedy person.
• Do not commit sins for the sake of avoiding shame.
• Do not be jealous or licentious.
• Do not be jealous of others or desire their property.
• Acquire prosperity through honest work.
• Avoid inactivity and laziness.
• Be self-reliant.
• Share your good fortune with others.
The priest follows the conclusion of the advice with prayers for good health (tandorosti) and blessings (ashirwad). The priests have beside them a tray of rose petals and rice which they shower on the couple during the tandorosti and ashirwad.
At the conclusion of the prayers, the priests congratulate the couple and signals that they may exchange wedding rings.
If this was not done before the commencement of the religious ceremony, a flame is lit jointly at the close of the religious ceremonies.
Haath Borvanu - Hand Dipping
Pag Dhovanu - Foot Washing
The solemnity of the religious ceremony is replaced by laughter with the enactment of a cultural ritual that probably had some significance in the past, but is now rooted entirely in mirth.
In a traditional Yazdi (Iranian) Zoroastrian wedding ceremony, after the couple had retired their nuptial chambers, the womenfolk would wash the couple's feet, hands and face. The Parsi customs of haath borvanu (hand dipping) and pag dhovanu (foot washing) rituals may be based on this custom.
During the haath borvanu ritual, the groom places his hand in a container of water held by the bride's sister, and she stops him from removing his hand until he drops a silver coin in the container.
The extortion continues with the sister-in-law threatening to sprinkle milk (or water) on the groom's shoes in a modern version of the pag dhovanu custom. The groom - well on his way to the poor-house by this time - must make an additional payment.
If the binding string or cloth used during the hathevaro is still wrapped around the couple's chairs, the groom must provide additional financial inducements for his new sister-in-law to untie them.
|Family and guests come up to the couple to congratulate them and give them gifts (usually envelopes of cash|
At the conclusion of the marriage ceremonies, the immediate family come up and congratulate the couple, giving them envelopes of cash as wedding gifts. They are followed immediately by the invited guests who do the same. Both family and friends may choose to shower the couple with rice as part of their felicitations.
The gifting of envelopes of cash is the conventional and preferred form of gift giving. The cash gifts may be given individually or jointly to the groom and bride. The cash is placed in an envelope with the name of the couple, best wishes and the name of the person making the gift written on the envelope.
Visit to a Fire Temple
|Couple visit a fire temple or Darbe Mehr|
Some couples may choose to visit a fire temple immediately following the marriage ceremony to offer individual prayers. If they do so, they hold the marriage ceremony in a hall adjoining the sanctum containing the fire.
In a community place of worship such as a Darbe Mehr, the couple can approach the fire. In a consecrated temple, only priests can enter the inner sanctum or pavi area.
|Extinguishing the flame|
Close of the Wedding Ceremonies
The oil lamp or candle that had been jointly lit by the couple is allowed to extinguish itself as Zoroastrians are loath to manually extinguishing a flame. If it absolutely necessary to extinguish the flame of a candle, this is sometimes done using the petals of a rose. The flame is never blown out.
Rather than extinguishing the flame, the couple may choose to carry the flame to their nuptial chambers. This is difficult if the flame is a candle, but is an option if the couple have jointly lit a devo or oil lamp, as the casing of the devo will protect the flame while it is being moved. Some couples may choose to light an additional devo, and leave for their home separately, each carrying one of the two devos. In this variation, the groom arrives at their home first and places his devo on their bedside table. The bride accompanied by female relatives follows, and when she enters the nuptial chambers, she places her devo next to her husband's devo.
While the temporal flames of the devo may burn out marking the end of the marriage ceremony, the spiritual bonds that have been ignited in the hearts of the couple during the marriage ceremony will continue to burn in their hearts. However, in order to keep the spiritual flame burning with vigour and vitality, the couple need to be conscious that the spiritual flame needs to be jointly tended and feed the fuel of good intentions, good thoughts, good words and good deeds. As with the temporal flame, the spiritual flame will die out if left unattended.
|Dahi koomron: feeding one another|
A reception where the guests are served a meal follows the marriage ceremony.
If the couple follow a custom called dahi koomron, the couple eat from the same plate. At the start of the meal, the bride offers her husband a bite of food and the husband reciprocates, demonstrating their desire to look after and take care of one another.
In India, according to the old system, food is served on banana leaves. Favourite menu items are sali-ma-murgh (chicken and potato straws) or sali-na-gosht (mutton and potato straws), pulao-dal (rice and lentils), and patra-ne-machhi (fish wrapped in leaves) - to mention a few of the delectable options. Popular desserts are kulfi, a rich ice cream made with pistachios or custard.
The meal is followed by dancing and general merriment.
When its time for the couple to leave, unless they have chosen to leave separately, the couple are escorted or accompanied by both families to their their chosen home. There, before they can cross the threshold of their nuptial chambers, the groom's mother performs a final achu michu. After many hugs and kisses and renewed congratulations, the family bid farewell and leave the couple to spend their first night together.
» Page 1: Overview & Organization
» Page 2: Pre-Wedding Festivities
» Page 3: Wedding Day Pre-Wedding Ceremonies